CRIME - Ferdinand von Schirach

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

The author of CRIME, Ferdinand von Schirach is a criminal lawyer in Berlin.  He's also an extremely good storyteller.

The stories incorporated in CRIME (as the publicity material puts it) were specifically chosen to demonstrate the relationships between truth and reason, law and compassion.  They are real-life cases from the author's own experience.  The subject matter, frankly, is frequently much much easier to imagine as fictional - but they are not.  Whilst it's clear they are tales chosen to trigger certain emotions and reactions in the reader, in von Schirach's hands, the telling isn't overblown or overtly manipulative.  There's something restrained, dry, matter-of-fact in the author's storytelling which makes the subject matter striking, but somehow more palatable (for want of a better word).  Palatable only in the reading mind you.  Consideration of what is happening in each of these tales, on the other hand, is more challenging.

There's lots of things to find interesting about this book - not just the nature of truth, reason, law and compassion, but also the more practical elements - the way that the justice system works in Germany, the glimpses into the world of the criminal lawyer.   More than once I finished one of these stories wondering how it is that people get themselves into these situations, and how they ended up on von Schirach's doorstep afterwards.  Perhaps the first part of that statement is what the book does best - really makes you wonder / think / consider the nature of justice.

The only downside to the book is that it might be best to read in small snippets - a story at a time, and then give yourself some thinking time and then onto the next.  I certainly have found myself drawn back to reading some of the entries again, which, for somebody with a lot of reading matter available to them, is about the highest praise I can think of.

Year of Publication

Crime is a collection of stories told by one of Germany’s most prominent defence lawyers. Some of the cases are strange, some bewildering and others heartbreaking, but all are told with genuine concern for those who have slipped through the protective nets of society.

* What would make a polite, well-liked doctor cut up his wife with an axe?
* Why would a boy slaughter the sheep in his village?
* Who is the silent man that coolly murdered two neo-Nazis on a suburban train platform?
* What connection does a German bank robber have to an Ethiopian village?
* Why would a museum drop all charges against someone who deliberately smashed one of their statues?

However heinous the crime, the author shows readers the human at the core. Crime is an incredibly moving look at the legal system and the people it serves, from an expert of criminal law and a powerful new voice in writing.

Review CRIME - Ferdinand von Schirach
Karen Chisholm
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
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